Live Again – Steve Hackett Plays St. Louis – 4/26/22

Steve Hackett – Genesis Revisted – Seconds Out + More – Saint Louis, Missouri, April 26, 2022
Set 1: 
Clocks – The Angel of Mons, Held in the Shadows, Every Day, The Devil’s Cathedral, Shadow of the Hierophant (instrumental version)
Set 2: Squonk, Carpet Crawlers, Robbery, Assault & Battery, Afterglow, Firth of Fifth, I Know What I Like, The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, The Musical Box (Closing Section), Supper’s Ready, Cinema Show, Aisle of Plenty
Encore: Dance on a Volcano, Drum Solo, Los Endos
Players: Steve Hackett, Nad Sylvan (vocals), Rob Townsend (all things blown), Roger King (keyboards), Jonas Reingold (bass, twelve string), Craig Blundell (drums)

I wasn’t planning on attending Steve Hackett’s show here in St. Louis at the River City Casino. For one I couldn’t really afford it, and two I didn’t want to buy tickets months ago since I wasn’t sure if I’d still be

River City Casino - Steve Hackett Show
Great view from the risers inside the River City Casino convention center

living in St. Louis. But a friend from church is a big prog fan, and I knew he was going. Monday night he told me he had a spare ticket, and he offered it to me! Well I sure as heck couldn’t turn that down. Thanks, Eric!

I haven’t been to a live concert since October 2019 when I saw Steve Hackett in Grand Rapids on his Selling England By the Pound tour (check out my review of that show). This tour features the same talented lineup. I have all of Hackett’s live albums from the past decade or so, and while I’ve only seen him in person with this current lineup, I think it’s the best he has had in the last decade of Genesis Revisited shows. Everyone plays so well together, and it’s clear they’re having a blast. They play like a proper band rather than touring musicians supporting a big name musician.

The band’s vibe together was quickly established in the short first set, which featured some excellent selections from Hackett’s solo career. If I had to pick five songs from his solo career for them to play, I couldn’t have picked a better set. “Clocks” was a great instrumental opener followed by “Held in the Shadows,” one of the best songs off Hackett’s most recent solo album, Surrender of Silence. Hackett’s vocals were so effortlessly smooth. This was followed up by a rousing rendition of “Every Day,” another classic from Spectral Mornings.

After that they played “The Devil’s Cathedral,” my favorite song off Surrender of Silence. Nad Sylvan was stellar on vocals, as he was the entire night. This song displays what this band can do when they make music together. I would love to hear an entire album of new music from this band, perhaps with Nad and Steve sharing lead vocals. The instrumental version of “Shadow of the Hierophant” followed – the greatest solo Hackett song that should’ve been a Genesis track. Genesis lost a lot when Hackett left. Sure they may have become the most popular pop rock band in the world, but they lost their soul.

After the intermission, the audience (which seemed to be pretty inebriated by this point – especially the four talkative blokes in front of me) was treated to the entirety of the Seconds Out setlist. Every song was brilliant. This band plays so well, and they do justice to the music. They take a few artistic liberties as they’ve done for several years now, but I think it adds to the sound. For instance some of the keyboard parts are either replaced or layered with Rob Townsend’s saxophone, and his saxophone replaces the flute in “Firth of Fifth.” He also plays Irish whistles on parts of “Supper’s Ready” instead of flute. In some ways these changes add to the music. 

Nad Sylvan really stole the show on “Carpet Crawlers.” Vocals dominate that track, with the music taking a bit of a back seat, and Nad rose to the occasion with a phenomenal rendition. Nad sang effortlessly on every song, hitting all the high notes with ease. He sounds a little more natural singing the Peter Gabriel songs, although he sounded great on everything. “Robbery, Assault & Battery” must be a very difficult song to sing, but he did a great job. The song shows the playful storytelling side of Genesis, which still remained after Gabriel left the band. I don’t think Hackett’s band has played that song live before, or at least not in the last decade, so fans who see him every tour will get to hear some “new” material.

Since they played all of Seconds Out, there was a fair bit of overlap with the music played at the last tour, which is fine by me since I love Selling England By the Pound. “Firth of Fifth” was exquisite as always. So good that I even pulled out my earplugs. I think that guitar solo is just about the best ever, and Hackett does such a great job with it in a live setting. No one can play it like he does. Roger King is an expert with the piano intro too, something Tony Banks gave up a long time ago.

And since I mentioned the earplugs, I’ll make a quick comment about that. I always bring earplugs to concerts since I never know how loud it’s going to be. Both Hackett shows I’ve been to have been fairly well mixed with reasonable sound levels and minimal distortion, which is good since this music deserves full dynamic range instead of distorted rock crunch. With that said, it was still a bit too loud for much of the concert for my comfort, so I was taking them in and out all night. That didn’t really bother me. I probably could have left them out without permanent damage, but I’d rather be safe than sorry when it comes to my hearing. My eyesight is bad enough – I don’t need to lose my hearing too.

Like on the original live Genesis album, Hackett’s band played the ending section of “The Musical Box,” which Nad nailed on vocals. The epic “Supper’s Ready” followed that, and I’m so happy that I got to see that played live. The band performed flawlessly. The music and lyrics carried me away, as all good music should. Sadly I was drawn out of it a little bit by the perpetual yapping from one particular inebriated bloke in front of me, but I found that the earplugs actually helped drown him out, which helped me focus on the music. It’s a shame to be drawn out of those special musical moments where you really feel a connection with the band.

Steve Hackett - Live

It’s no wonder Seconds Out is such a legendary live album. What a setlist! “Cinema Show” right after “Supper’s Ready” – it doesn’t get much better than that. The band deviated from that original setlist by adding “Aisle of Plenty” at the end of “Cinema Show.” The songs flow together, so it’s only natural to include “Aisle of Plenty,” which serves much the same purpose on Selling England as “Afterglow” does on Wind and Wuthering. It’s a cool down after an intense musical and lyrical journey.

Following that the band took their bows and left the stage to a standing ovation and thunderous roar. They were cheered for a couple minutes by the loudest encore cheer I think I’ve ever heard at a live show. It reminded me of some of the cheers I’ve heard on live prog albums recorded in Europe. It was great to hear that from an American audience in a relatively small venue. The band came back out and blew us away with “Dance on a Volcano” and “Los Endos.”

The real treat was Craig Blundell’s blistering drum solo between those two songs. Absolutely phenomenal. Drum solos can often be kind of boring, but Blundell’s solos are very… musical, if that makes sense. He grabs your attention and holds it. The speed at which he played was impressive, but he also adds in brilliant chops. It was one of my favorite parts of the evening. Even Jonas Reingold came back out on stage near the edge to watch his bandmate play. The bit of jazz-infused “Los Endos” made for an excellent final encore to a memorable musical night.


Much was made of Genesis’ final (supposedly) tour, especially their final show, which both Peter Gabriel and Steve Hackett attended. I’m sure that attention was deserved, but I watched some clips on YouTube from those shows, and I’ll take Steve Hackett’s shows over the latest iteration of Genesis any day. There’s more energy, better musicians, and better vocals. The songs sound like the albums, and Hackett’s guitar is virtually unrepeatable. His tone is so unique, and his style of playing is unmatched.

Another plus is Hackett’s band is a who’s who of current prog names. I may never get to see the Flower Kings or the Tangent (Jonas Reingold), Frost* (Craig Blundell), or Nad Sylvan play his solo stuff, but I get to see them play legendary music with my favorite guitarist. It’s hard to beat that. The band also clearly enjoys what they are doing. Hackett was obviously having fun, and I saw Jonas playing air drums at one point in the show when he wasn’t playing for several seconds.

If you’ve been following Hackett’s live shows over the last decade, there may not be many surprises in this current setlist, but there doesn’t need to be. The music is phenomenal, and I’ll leave it at that. If he’s coming near you on this tour or the upcoming Foxtrot at 50 shows, definitely grab a ticket. Last night was the most fun I’ve had in a long time. 

http://www.hackettsongs.com/tour.html

Steve Hackett Live
Dancing on a Volcano

 

A Brief Encouragement Toward Hope: Anathema’s video concert, UNIVERSAL (2013)

KSCOPE517-600pxPlease forgive this somewhat strange interruption here in the flow of progarchy.  But, I have to express this.  It’s not a review, just an expression of love.

I’ve only been listening to Anathema since 2008.  In the big scheme of things, I’m an Anathema newbie, and I never knew about them when they were a death-metal band.  I’ve still not explored that side of the band, and I’m fairly sure I wouldn’t understand it or what they were trying to accomplish with their early albums.

I can state with certainty, however, that I believe that every thing they’ve recorded over the last 11 years is of the highest excellence and integrity.  I will admit, I wasn’t as keen on Weather Systems as I was We’re Here Because We’re Here.  To me, the 2011 album is an example of a perfect album, or as perfect as things can get in this world.  When I hear Anathema, I think of Rush meeting Marillion, of Arvo Peart meeting U2 (Unforgettable Fire period).  We’re Here Because We’re Here hit everything just perfectly, and it did so with intensity and purpose (two of my favorite words).  I’m also not a fan, generally, of music videos for single songs, but the video for “Dreaming Light” hit me very hard.  It captured mystery, tragedy, and innocence so . . . well, perfectly.  My oldest daughter, Gretchen, and I watched it over and over when it came out.  We made up stories about it, and it became a very important part of our relationship.  We’re naturally very close, but this only made us closer.  It gave us a way to talk about war, abuse, and other horrific issues that must be confronted.  But, of course, the video also embraces hope.  Perhaps hope pervades every aspect of the song, frankly.

Weather Systems (2012), as I judged it, succeeded just as well, and. in some ways, better, until Track No. 9.  Then, it all fell apart for me, really changing the complexion of the entire work of art and, to some extent, of the band.  I certainly have nothing against poetry or spoken word, but, from my perspective, “Internal Landscapes” just failed.  I didn’t find the story compelling, and I thought the voice of the narrator (an American, I presume, or at least a North American) mediocre.  Maybe I’m just close-minded, but this really affected me.  I still played the album around the house and on our very long car trips, but I grimaced every time “Internal Landscapes” came on.  When PROG called Weather Systems the best album of 2012, I was just stunned.  Big Big Train had earned that one!

Last week, however, Gretchen started singing a song repeatedly, and I recognized that I recognized it, but I couldn’t quite place it.  She didn’t have the lyrics correct, but had interpreted them as well as she possibly could have, given that I have the CD in my office, and she’s only heard the album intermittently.  After about 10 tries with different groups, she explained again, “No, daddy, it’s a back and forth, a man and a woman, and they’re in love but they’re separated.”  It hit me that it had to be Anathema.  I put on Untouchable, Parts I and II, and she breathed a sigh of relief.  Yes, that was definitely it.

I’d already heard the soundtrack of the UNIVERSAL concert, and I enjoyed it.  Hoping to encourage Gretchen, I ordered the concert video.  It arrived yesterday.  Let me express my view of this concert in the most succinct way I can: Wow.  Just wow.  I love concert DVDs, and I have quite a few of them.  This, however, has to rank up near the top.  It has reaffirmed everything I loved about this band, but didn’t quite understand.  I’m still not a fan of “Internal Landscapes,” but it doesn’t matter.  This is reality.  This is myth.  This is beauty.  This is intensity.  This is integrity.  This is glory.  This is music.

Once again, everything is simply perfect.  The aggressiveness, the playfulness, the seriousness, the artistry, the cinematography, the personality.  Everything.  In.  Its.  Right.  Place.

Thank you.  Just, thank you.  And, my beautiful and wondrous daughter, Gretchen, thanks you as well.

For information on the album from Kscope, go here.